Given that Michael Carrick will transition into a coaching role next season, someone else will need to take the armband at Manchester United. One of five players will likely become the new captain based on the qualities they offer the team.
Manchester United Need A New Captain
David De Gea
De Gea’s story at Manchester United makes him an appealing candidate. When he first arrived at the club he was a scrawny 20-year-old. The Spanish goalkeeper often struggled to shrug off opposition attackers in his own penalty area when attempting to claim an aerial cross. However, by working with fitness coaches, he transformed his body into that of a physically imposing goalkeeper. With this new dimension to his game, De Gea now comfortably claims aerial crosses into his box, claws shots off of his goal line, and tips the ball around his goal posts. In every match, the Spaniard seems to make an absolutely breathtaking save.
As opposition attackers, it must be frustrating to direct an excellent shot on goal only to see De Gea ruin the moment. Surely, this creates doubt in the minds of the opposing players because the idea of scoring a goal seems so difficult. Having a goalkeeper of this stature at Manchester United is invaluable. Therefore, De Gea could claim the armband without any complaints.
Candidates from the Back Four
Of course, few would complain about Antonio Valencia becoming the new captain either. Simply put, the right-back puts his head down and works hard. Tune into any Manchester United match and notice how Valencia makes a simple pass and then sprints down the touchline in order to create an option for his teammate. It’s truly a wonderful sight to behold him galloping into open space. Defensively, Valencia sprints out towards opposition attackers to limit their ability to pass or cross. On the occasions that a player manages to get around him, he has the ability to recover, make a tackle at full stretch, and negate the danger.
Chris Smalling represents a more controversial candidate from United’s back four. The centre-back shares the pace of Antonio Valencia and he’ll rarely lose a footrace with an opposition attacker. When in form, Smalling offers skills to the team such as aerial dominance and staying tight to opposition attackers. For example, in the FA Cup semi-final between Manchester United and Tottenham, Smalling prevented one of the deadliest strikers in the world, Harry Kane, from having a chance at goal. However, the vast majority of United fans would surely hope to see the armband go elsewhere. Smalling can often seem shaky when defending compared to his fellow centre-backs. Indeed, when out of form, he can be caught out of position when crosses are whipped into the United penalty area. Normally, players need to eliminate this uncertainty from their game before being appointed captain.
On the other hand, players like Nemanja Matić offer reliability. The former Chelsea man always seems to know when to move in for a tackle and when to cut off a passing lane. While the Serbian receives credit for his defensive work, pundits and fans rarely speak of his contributions to United attacks. For example, against Crystal Palace, Matić scored the eventual winner when United were 2-0 down. He headed a goal into Brighton’s net in the FA Cup quarter-final. He also swept a beautiful ball across Everton’s penalty area before Antonio Valencia unleashed an arrow-like shot on goal. Essentially, his consistent support in defence and attack make him a candidate for the captaincy.
However, the aforementioned candidates lack the personality that Paul Pogba brings to the table. The Frenchman’s confidence and pride are always clearly visible through his body language. For example, consider the point in the season where Manchester City had the chance to win the Premier League by beating Manchester United. Pogba scored two goals in that match and when the second one went in, he smashed the ball skywards in a dramatic display of joy. Alternatively, when José Mourinho substituted him during a poor spell of form, one could almost feel his heart sink. Clearly, Pogba takes great pride in playing for United, which would be an excellent quality to have in the captain.
Players with an Outside Chance
Ander Herrera also plays for Manchester United with passion and pride. He taps the badge upon scoring and speaks to the media about the privilege of playing for United. However, the Spanish midfielder has admitted in the past that he might not deserve the captaincy just yet. Additionally, Herrera has not been a regular starter this season.
Romelu Lukaku, in contrast, seems to have featured in almost every match for United this season. He’s scored 26 goals in all competitions and he always causes problems for opposition defenders. Of course, football fans know that strikers are rarely selected for the captaincy. Perhaps strikers have enough pressure to score goals and they don’t need any added responsibility on the pitch.
In any case, whoever takes over as the United captain will certainly have large boots to fill. Michael Carrick exuded class and quality, and the new captain should as well.
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